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In Canada, immigrants must matter just as immigration matters.

By Olufemi Ajiboye

Although Canada’s immigration system is a model for others to follow, proactive measures are needed to guide them to the resources and training to better prepare for the Canadian workplace.

Canada has set an ambitious plan to welcome over 1.2 million new permanent residents by 2023. This recent plan announced by the Honourable Minister of Immigration, Marco Mendicino, is an extension of the multi-year immigration levels plan that was first announced in 2017.

However, additional measures by the government would help more immigrants to overcome the challenges they face as newcomers and provide them the opportunities to contribute favourably to the country’s economic growth.

Despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada plans to welcome 401,000 new immigrants in 2021, 411,000 new immigrants in 2022, and 421,000 new immigrants in 2023. In addition to this, up to 60% of these new immigrants are expected through the economic immigration class system.

Over the years, Canada has prioritized economic class immigration and is using this to solve both its population and economic growth concerns. The multi-year immigration levels plan is, therefore, an affirmation of the important contributions of immigrants to Canada, and the role that immigrants will play in building the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic immigrants arrive in Canada with their professional skills, educational qualifications, and years of work experience. They also anticipate the opportunities to put their skills into use and fill the skills shortage in the critical workforce.

Historically, immigrants have supported economic growth in Canada as both employees and employers of labour. They have replaced the retiring baby boomer workforce in many sectors, driven innovation, boosted bilateral trade between Canada and their countries of birth, strengthened Canada’s multiculturalism, and are responsible for 75% of Canada’s population growth. These and many other reasons are why immigration matters in Canada.

However, numerous challenges have prevented many immigrants from integrating into the workforce and contributing to the country’s economic growth.

These challenges have brought forward discussions on the disparity between the immigration recruitment criteria for economic immigrants, and the employment recruitment criteria they face upon arrival in Canada. Before being granted permanent residency in Canada, the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada would conduct an evaluation of the applicants’ credentials, verify the skills and experience they claim to have, and put their applications through a rigorous review process to ensure they are a good fit for both the Canadian society and workforce. All these would, however, amount to little when seeking employment in Canada.

New immigrants often arrive in Canada to find themselves subjected to the realities of not having sufficient Canadian experience to secure employment, or their credentials not recognized as equivalent to a Canadian education. Additionally, for those in regulated professions, there is a rigorous process of securing the licenses required to practice in their profession.

According to the World Education Services, top among the challenges that constitute barriers to employment for new immigrants are lack of professional connections; employers not recognizing their qualifications and experience; lack of recognition for their international education, the rigorous licensing process for regulated professions; the resume, CV, or cover letter writing skills of new immigrants; and the low demand for certain degree majors or skills.

These challenges have prevented many newcomers from integrating into the workforce and contributing their quota to the country’s economic growth.

The challenges present opportunities for Canada to implement certain proactive measures such as

  1. offering qualifications and experience recognition support for new immigrants and employers;
  2. mandatory skills upscaling and rescaling programs that would help newcomers to assess their skills and develop requisite workplace skills;
  3. employment integration programs that would create a platform to connect underutilized talents to local employers; and
  4. a restructuring of the licensing procedures to make room for faster integration in certain regulated professions.

The Canadian Government should work with relevant stakeholders to put adequate measures in place to ensure that these recommendations are effectively implemented. Existing resources should also be targeted towards programs that would better prepare new immigrants for the expectations of the workplace, and guide them to access the resources and training they need. 

Taking action on these recommendations would help to boost Canada’s global profile as a welcoming destination for immigrants, and further reiterate that immigrants matter to Canada, just as immigration matters.

Lobster Tales: How the Mi’kmaq First Nations came out on top of the Nova Scotia Lobster Dispute

By Emma MacFarlane

The tale of fishing disputes in Nova Scotia dates back to the early 1990s, when Donald Marshal Jr. was charged with illegal catching and selling of eels in Cape Breton. By 1999, Marshal had appealed his decision all the way to the Supreme Court, citing a 250-year-old treaty that ensured his right to fish anytime, anywhere, so long as it was in order to support himself and his family. The court agreed with this ruling, and Marshall was acquitted. The court, however, came back to clarify that their ruling meant that Marshal could only fish to provide a “moderate living” and could not fish to accumulate mass amounts of wealth. According to legal experts, this clarification was a call to action for the federal and provincial governments to create policy to protect Indigenous rights and prevent issues such as this one from arising again, however no policies or practices were implemented to form a sustainable solution.

This lack of action allowed Indigenous fishermen to take matters into their own hands. In September of 2020, after Ashton Bernard was charged for fishing and selling lobster in a similar fashion to Marshal, the Sipekne’katik First Nation opened a livelihood lobster fishery in order to protect themselves from the scrutiny of commercial fishermen. Commercial fishermen highlighted environmental and livelihood concerns should the First Nations overfish the waters. In recent years, lobster fishing has become and extremely lucrative market, and it seemed that commercial fishermen were unhappy they would be sharing the waters and profits with Indigenous fishermen.

The claws came out on October 12th, 2020 when well over 200 commercial fishermen and their associates vandalized and burgled two separate facilities where First Nation fishermen had been storing their lobster hauls and fishing supplies. Fires, threats, and theft were the weapons of choice by commercial fishermen, and the “environmental concerns” they had voiced when originally confronting the Mi’kmaq fishermen seemed moot, as hundreds of pounds of live, sellable lobster were dumped onto the pavement to meet a cold end. As of November 14th, 2020, the RCMP has only made a handful of arrests and laid even fewer actual charges. Furthermore, they have not confirmed whether the arrests are related to the incident itself, despite video and eye-witness evidence. This lack of action on the part of RCMP has been publicly criticized by Chief Sack of the Sip’knekatik First Nation, who has had to instead pursue civil lawsuits against individuals who partook in the vandalism of the fisheries.

With the threatening and intimidating behaviour of commercial fishermen and little assistance from authority or government, the Indigenous fishermen of Nova Scotia needed a creative solution for peace, and fast. Enter Premium Brands Holdings Corporation. Partnering with several Mi’kmaq First Nations, they structured a $1billion dollar deal to purchase Clearwater Seafoods Inc. This is the largest seafood purchase by a Canadian Indigenous group in history and will likely be marked as a pillar for change and cooperation between Indigenous and commercial fishermen. Upon completion of this deal, this partnership will give Mi’kmaq fishermen sole holding rights Canadian Clearwater’s fishing licenses.

This is a major win for Indigenous fishermen, and for First Nations across Canada. This collaboration will hopefully encourage collaboration with commercial and First Nation fishermen, otherwise they will likely see a drop in their sales and livelihood. Without violence or force, the First Nations are now able to turn the tables in their favour in the lobster fishing industry. Clearly, this is a fantastic example of triumph over those who would continue to oppress Indigenous rights and is a step in the direction of independence and self-sufficiency for First Nations. Only time will tell how this victory plays out for them.

Despite this victory, there is still a need for government intervention. The Mi’kmaq establishing themselves as a major player in the lobster fishing industry should be a wakeup call to the federal government to play a much more active role in issues such as this one, to prevent them from reoccurring and alleviating the pressure First Nation’s face when having to solve these issues. In order to promote peaceful collaboration between commercial and First Nation fishermen, policies and attitudes must be adjusted. Further policy is needed to outline the actual meaning of a “moderate livelihood” and the “mass accumulation of wealth” on the part of Indigenous fishermen. Furthermore, the provincial and federal government must be tasked with achieving a balance between Indigenous fishing rights and sustainable fishing policies to be applied to all fishermen. Finally, an inquiry should be launched to examine RCMP practices when acts of targeted violence such as the vandalism in October occur, and examine why it was necessary for the First Nations to take settlement matters into their own hands. Though these processes may be a long and tedious process, it will be undoubtedly shorter than the decades that the parties involved have gone without substantial policy on the subject.

The MEC debacle is a predictable and avoidable governance failure

By Marc-Andre Pigeon and Anthony Piscitelli

When news broke about Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) being sold to an investor in the United States, the reaction among many of its 5.4 million member-owners was surprise, anger and disappointment.

More than 130,000 members have so far signed a petition to reverse the sale, while a group of members has raised more than $100,000 to give members a voice at MEC’s Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings.

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